Olyn and I were in a business meeting yesterday and we were explaining how crazy things are at the moment, since we just finished “Ducks and Bunnies”. The businessman we were talking with commented on how we must be so tired of telling children to smile. I hadn’t really thought about it until then, but “smile” is one of the few things we don’t generally tell children to do. The conversation went on to explain what it is we DO ask children to do and I think we might have just blown this poor man’s mind! But it was so interesting to me to actually express how we work with children and why we love it so much.
As parents, we all know that each child is different– even many siblings are as different as night and day! So, over the years, Olyn and I have learned to quickly identify a child’s personality and hone in on the things that make them tick. Many children come to the studio all wired up and ready to go– they are superstars from the word “go”. Obviously getting smiles from them is no challenge, but I try to also get that sweet serious look, or find a way to get their inquisitive expression. Then there are the reserved, shy children that the parents fret won’t smile (or stop crying). They generally take more time, but we will sit in the studio and play until that child finally relaxes, checks out their surroundings and shows me their “at home” personality. Each time I break down walls with these kids and capture who they really are its a huge victory for me.
With Ducks and Bunnies, its a wild five days of complete insanity, but my two biggest victories were with these shy children. One set of sisters were very reserved and their mom said they never smile for pictures. Through working with them, they not only smiled, but they also laughed, held my hand as we went for a walk and gave me high-fives to celebrate doing a good job. Another little girl was shy and nervous about the ducklings. After introducing her to my little yellow friends, we played outside, I sat with ducks on my head and managed to get a giggle. We got great portraits and once we were finished, she came to give me a hug and told her mom she didn’t want to leave.
More than any of our awards, accomplishments or success, winning the trust and affection of these children lets me go home with such a feeling of contentment and fulfillment. I am so honored that these families and children allow me to capture their personalities and create these memories for them. As the child of teachers, working with children has always been a part of my life and it is the best thing I could ever ask for. I write this not to brag or build us up, but to say to each and every family that you should have this kind of relationship with your family photographer. This is why you hire an independent photographer and avoid the chain studios– this is just one part of what makes a photographic artist so special.